Closing of gates
Since the pandemic began earlier this year, the world has seen closure of “The Happiest Place on Earth” across different countries as an attempt to curb the virus outbreak. With many industries on shutdown because of the pandemic, many companies struggled financially, including media giant Disney losing over 90 percent of profit.
Last March, Disney theme parks from across the world was closed and even suspended their cruise lines upon the beginning of the pandemic. The decision came in order to prevent the increasing spread of coronavirus. This move was echoed by all the other major theme parks, also closing down to avoid gathering of large crowds. This in addition to delaying theatrical releases of major motion pictures like Mulan, due to closure of movie houses and theaters.
Bringing the magic back
But slowly, Disney is trying to reopen its theme parks. Two months ago, Shanghai Disneyland already opened their gates for guests as cases of the virus in China were decreasing, though the theme park still implemented safety measures like the wearing of masks and maintaining of social distancing. Weeks later, Hong Kong Disneyland followed suit, also adapting the same regulations set on its Chinese counterpart. Bookings and reservations are all transacted online in order to monitor the amount of visitors. All will have to go temperature checks and with mandatory face masks. Performance shows would still entertain guests as activities that require close interaction with cast members (what Disney calls their employees) are suspended, like, unfortunately, photo opportunities with the popular characters like Mickey Mouse.
Completing the Asian theme parks that Disney owns would be Tokyo Disney Resort, resuming operations since the month started. This also closed due to the global health crisis, weeks earlier than their Californian counterparts. As expected, the Tokyo-based Disney theme parks also released guidelines to ensure health safety among visitors and cast members. The Oriental Land, operator of Tokyo Disney parks, disclosed that the capacity should be lower than half of the normal capacity of the parks, along with regular disinfection procedures of facilities, including the rides.
Meanwhile, the Anaheim parks announced that they are ready to open. California is among the top states with highest toll of confirmed cases of the virus. The decision to resume operations received backlash, mostly from their own cast members, supported by a Change.org petition with more than 40,000 signatures. The decision was immediately reversed, as Disney announced the Anaheim theme parks will delay reopening.
Most recently, the House of Mouse announced that their Florida theme parks are opening this weekend, ignoring the fact that the state has seen a record high number of coronavirus deaths last Wednesday. They also met strong opposition from people, garnering 20,000 signatures on moveon.org, pointing out that theme parks are “non-essential business.”
The parks that are going to be welcoming visitors for the first time since closing months ago are Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom. Florida is also among the states with higher cases. The media conglomerate vowed that with the opening of the parks, they consulted with their cast members to enforce safety health protocols, such as limited capacity and aggressive disinfection of facilities.
With more than 20,000 employees set to return, Service Trade Council Union (STCU) head Matt Hollis said that “there’s going to be a learning curve as we learn the new normal, but the cast members will do everything they can to adapt with new measures designed to keep everyone safe.” Disney talked with them regarding measures to put in place, in addition to paying workers going quarantine should they contract the virus.